Saturday, July 15, 2006


The War President (Image from Salon.com) The War: Fourteen people killed and five wounded in the bombing of a Sunni mosque in northern Baghdad Friday. (Note: This is probably one of the mosque attacks reported yesterday, with revised casualty figures.)

The coach of Iraq's national wrestling team was killed in an attack in Baghdad Friday. He was seized with one of his wrestlers and shot to death while trying to escape; the other wrestler got away.

Gunmen attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint on a highway near Kirkuk Friday, killing 11 soldiers and wounding three.

A body dressed in traditional Arab clothing, shot in the chest and showing signs of torture, was found in Aziziyah, 35 miles southeast of Baghdad.

In Mosul Friday a suicide car bomber struck a police patrol, killing two civilians and wounding two others.

Clashes between gunmen and police in Mosul killed a civilian Friday. Gunmen wearing camouflage uniforms abducted the head of Iraq's national Olympic committee and 50 other people including bodyguards and committee staff as they met in Baghdad on Saturday. The body of one of the guards was found dumped in a street in Karrada in central Baghdad shortly afterwards. The guard had been shot in the head. At least three people were killed and eleven wounded in street battles today between government troops and gunmen (presumably in Baghdad). Seven people were hurt when mortar rounds landed in a Baghdad neighborhood just blocks from the Green Zone. Gunmen attacked a truck loaded with sheep, killing the driver (presumably in Baghdad). Gunmen killed a member of the Iraqi Parliament Friday in Ramadi. Not far from Balad Ruz, the bodies of two brothers and a cousin were found in a field, handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head. Twenty-four bodies had already been found on Wednesday.

An Iraqi contractor working with the US forces was shot dead by gunmen close to the northern city of Tikrit. The contractor’s 18-year-old son was also wounded in the attack. A U.S. soldier was killed when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb near Sadr City, a Shi'ite area in northeast Baghdad.

A suicide car bomb exploded near a police checkpoint in eastern Baghdad killing two police commandos and wounding four.

Iraqi troops killed 23 insurgents and detained 147 suspects over the past 24 hours, the army said in a statement.

One person was killed and two wounded when a bomb placed inside a computer exploded inside an Internet cafe in central Kirkuk.

The U.S. military said initial reports indicated that an Apache attack helicopter that crashed in a dangerous area southwest of Baghdad on Thursday was brought down by hostile fire.

Gunmen killed three brothers, two of them Iraqi soldiers, 20 km (12 miles) southeast of Baquba.

Two people were killed and seven wounded when clashes erupted overnight between gunmen and residents in the predominantly Sunni al-Fadhil area in central Baghdad.

Two people were killed and six arrested when Iraqi troops raided Baghdad's northern Sunni district of Adhamiya. Residents reported hearing explosions and machinegun fire overnight. Umm, Jalal, don’t look now, but…: President Jalal Talabani has called for establishment of a national front to prevent a sectarian civil war.

Talabani's statement was issued late Friday to mark the 1958 coup that overthrew the Iraqi monarchy and led to years of turmoil until the Baath Party took control of the country in 1968. The party held power until it was removed by a U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

"The country is facing dangers and heading toward sectarian strife," Talabani said. Heading toward sectarian strife, Part 1: No one, including US forces, has stepped in to halt the sectarian cleansing operation engulfing Baghdad in the last six months, the largest of its kind the world has seen in recent years.

Shiite fighters, many in the uniforms of the new Iraqi national army or Iraqi security forces, are battling Sunni gunmen, in defiance of their duties to - and the authority of – the Nouri al-Maliki government. This conflict is nothing but outright civil war.

First the two hostile camps fought one another for Baghdad suburbs. In early June, they clashed over the control of streets. Now they are dueling for single buildings that overlook strategic sections or installations in the capital. Some streets are consequently ruled half and half, and any Sunni or Shiite venturing into the wrong end of the street takes his life in his hands. Heading toward sectarian strife, Part 2: Ali phoned me on Tuesday night, about 10.30pm. There were cars full of gunmen prowling his mixed neighbourhood, he said. He and his neighbours were frantically exchanging information, trying to identify the gunmen.

Were they the Mahdi Army, the Shia militia blamed for drilling holes in their victims’ eyes and limbs before executing them by the dozen? Or were they Sunni insurgents hunting down Shias to avenge last Sunday’s massacre, when Shia gunmen rampaged through an area called Jihad, pulling people from their cars and homes and shooting them in the streets?

Ali has a surname that could easily pass for Shia. His brother-in-law has an unmistakably Sunni name. They agreed that if they could determine that the gunmen were Shia, Ali would answer the door. If they were Sunnis, his brother-in-law would go.

Whoever didn’t answer the door would hide in the dog kennel on the roof.

Their Plan B was simpler: to dash 50 yards to their neighbours’ house — home to a dozen brothers. All Iraqi homes are awash with guns for self-defence in these merciless times. Together they would shoot it out with the gunmen — one of a dozen unsung Alamos now being fought nightly on Iraq’s blacked-out streets. Heading toward sectarian strife, Part 3: Sunni families have fled their homes in Baghdad's predominantly Sunni Jihad neighborhood after Shiite militiamen killed at least 50 fellow ones in the latest gruesome sectarian attack in the US occupied country.

"What have I done wrong? What crime have my children committed?" cried a terrified mother.

"As you can see, I only grabbed a bag with some clothes for my children," she told Agence France-Presse (AFP) Saturday, July 15.

"I couldn't take beds or more bags since we were fleeing on foot." Priorities, priorities: In the mosques and streets of Iraq, all talk Friday was of war, but for a change it was someone else's.

In Iraq, a country that seemed to be spiraling out of control toward civil war, where whole neighborhoods were engulfed in ugly sectarian battles, the escalating fighting in Lebanon involving Israel dominated talk in Friday prayers, on the streets and in newscasts.

``Dozens of innocent men, women and children are being killed for a couple of military men while they can be freed through negotiations,'' Sheik Abdul-Mahdi Karbalai told worshipers in the Shiite city of Karbala, condemning the ``destruction, killing and horror'' of the ``Zionist war machine.''

Certainly the violence and chaos here hasn't stopped: Friday, 11 Iraqi soldiers were killed at a checkpoint, two mosques bombed and at least three people beheaded.

Yet sermons -- many by preachers allied with the U.S.-backed government -- were not aimed at rival sects, lawless militiamen, ineffective politicians or U.S. forces.

They were aimed almost exclusively at Israel, which sealed off Beirut by bombing the airport and road to Damascus, Syria, as well as blockading maritime exits from Lebanon. Turning the corner and on the right track. Yay!: A US commander said yesterday he was confident American and Iraqi troops can take control of the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi without a large-scale offensive like that used to seize Fallujah in 2004.

“I think we have turned a corner here in Ramadi. There is still a lot to do, but we’re on the right track,” said Army Colonel Sean MacFarland, who commands forces in and around the Sunni Muslim city of 400,000 people, 177km west of Baghdad.

MacFarland declined to predict how long it would take to pacify Ramadi, capital of the restive Anbar province. Your Grandkid's Credit Card The party of fiscal responsibility: Yesterday, the White House released its FY2007 mid-session budget review with great fanfare, celebrating its projection that the deficit will be nearly $300 billion this year.

Buried within the mid-session review, the White House reveals that it will ask Congress for another $110 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan early next year.

If you add together the amounts already allocated, plus the appropriations expected to be approved this year ($116 billion) and next year, the total spending for Iraq will soon exceed $400 billion. Half a trillion by '09: Congressional auditors say the war in Iraq has cost almost 300 (b) billion dollars so far and will total almost a half (t) trillion dollars even if all U-S troops were withdrawn by the end of 2009.

Congress has approved 432 (b) billion for military operations and other costs related to the war against terror since Nine-Eleven. Political Pusillanimity

Cowards: Democrats pulled an Internet ad that showed flag-draped coffins Friday after Republicans and at least two Democrats demanded it be taken down on grounds the image was insensitive and not fit for a political commercial.

Bush’s war is a Republican war. They chose it. They made it happen. They should be held responsible for it. The blood of American soldiers who have died and been grievously wounded in this vanity war of choice is on their hands and there is nothing insensitive in saying so. If the needless deaths of our sons and daughters in a vanity war isn't a fit subject for political discussion, what in the hell is?


Larry Wilkerson: Ask Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

Q. Define torture.

Q. Do we do torture?

Q. There have been dozens of homicides and more than a hundred deaths in U.S. custody. Is killing someone not the ultimate torture?

Q. If those cases were just the work of bad apples, why were the investigations dragged out so long? Why, for instance, did it take the Army two years before filing charges related to the homicides at Bagram Air Force Base in December 2002?

Q. Why are the sentences for the “bad apples” so light? Isn’t it the case that in these military courts martial, their military peers recognize they were following orders?

Documents and memos that have already made their way into the public domain make it clear that the Office of the Vice President bears responsibility for creating an environment conducive to the acts of torture and murder committed by U.S. forces in the war on terror.

There is, in my view, insufficient evidence to walk into an American courtroom and win a legal case (though an international courtroom for war crimes might feel differently). But there is enough evidence for a soldier of long service -- someone like me with 31 years in the Army -- to know that what started with John Yoo, David Addington, Alberto Gonzales, William Haynes at the Pentagon, and several others, all under the watchful and willing eye of the Vice President, went down through the Secretary of Defense to the commanders in the field, and created two separate pressures that resulted in the violation of longstanding practice and law.

Joshua Frank: It was just last month when President Bush assured the world that the situation in Iraq was dramatically improving. Sectarian tensions were going to relax as a result of Zarqawi's overly publicized death. As Bush put it bluntly, the death of Zarqawi served as "an opportunity for Iraq's new government to turn the tide in this struggle." But it's becoming painfully evident that Zarqawi, like Saddam's illusive WMDs, was just another creation of the US propaganda machine. There were other times the White House attempted to paint the chaos in Iraq in a positive light. Remember when US armed forces annihilated Saddam's wretched sons Oday and Qusay? Or how about when they captured Saddam and promised things were starting to look up? At best these token events only served as minor diversions for most of the US media, not unlike the alleged thwarting of a terrorist attack on the Holland Tunnel in New York late last week. Over the weekend, Sunni and Shi'ite militias were said to have been responsible for the deaths of more than 60 Iraqi civilians while injuring dozens more. Just another tranquil weekend in the streets of Baghdad. Rarely do we hear reports of what's going on outside the Green Zone, where the ethnically driven civil war is believed to be even worse.

Sidney Blumenthal: President Bush was against diplomacy before he was for it. But with the collapse of U.S. foreign policy across the board he has discarded talk of preemptive strikes and reluctantly claimed to have become a born-again realist. "And it's, kind of -- you know, it's kind of painful in a way for some to watch, because it takes a while to get people on the same page," he said at his July 7 press conference, adding, in an astonished tone, "Not everybody thinks the exact same way we think. Different words mean different things to different people."

Just two years ago, he appeared before the Republican Convention boasting of his "swagger, which in Texas is called walking." But in the face of the consequences of his failures, he has not adopted a new doctrine so much as swaggered into a corner. The cowboy's White House has become Fort Apache.

A homeowner in Maine (Scroll down): I came out of the house on the morning of July 13, on my way to take my daughter out for her birthday breakfast, to find that our house had been vandalized again. Raw eggs had been splattered all over the door, the porch, the front of the house. And toilet paper was in the bushes, throughout the red flags, and up on the roof. Ours is the house in Orono with the red flags in the yard, each flag representing one American soldier killed in Iraq. Each flag symbolizing the tens or hundreds of other lives affected by the one lost. I'm disgusted and I'm angry. Police report filed (again). House cleaned up (again). Lessons regarding ignorance and cowardice learned (again). If you have any information, please come forward. We are getting mighty tired of this. And anyone with a long ladder and lots of courage - we could still use some help getting the toilet paper off the roof.

Betty Baye: Americans may be divided over the war, but all of them should be troubled that, when researching their book "Cobra II," Michael R. Gordon and Gen. Bernard E. Trainor found racist stereotyping even in the highest levels of the U.S. command in Iraq. They cited a senior officer who said of Iraqis, "The only thing these sand [N-words] understand is force, and I'm about to introduce them to it""

Some will argue, of course, that the battlefield is no place for "political correctness" or claim that pelting enemies with ugly names is hardly new. In Korea and Vietnam, Americans commonly referred to their enemies with derogatory names.

But maybe that senior officer was a neo-Nazi or skinhead who managed to move up the ranks. And even if he wouldn't think of being part of such a group, his language screams out an attitude that would comfort them, and that's dangerous in an integrated military.

That officer is a walking, talking, living, breathing morale problem. Such language may be why some low-ranking soldiers accused of atrocities in Iraq seem to believe that ill-treatment of their prisoners is not just justified, but condoned by higher-ups.

Casualty Report

Standing a short distance from his son's flower-covered coffin, Geoffrey Mason Sr. took a moment to take it all in: The scores of mourners walking slowly back to their cars, or gathering in small clusters around the grave, sobbing, hugging and remembering Army Spc. Collin Tyree Mason.

"I feel my son's spirit here," he said. "I feel my son's spirit in all of these people."

Mason, a 20-year-old South Beach native, was killed July 2 after he was hit by mortar fire at a checkpoint outside Fort Taji in Baghdad.


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